Working and Living in Pakistan. Pros and Cons

August 6, 2007 12:12 pm 24 comments

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Here is a topic which keeps popping every time i meet some one who is either leaving for studies or job out of country. Or when some one posts the question when are you leaving? so all of us here lets evaluate what we gain and lose from going abroad. is the local scene so bad that no one wants to stay here?

This should evolve into a debate so your comments are required to complete this post. You are encouraged not to agree with me, but take me to task with valid points as i am a die hard fan Pakistan and working in my home country.

So here are the pros of Working and living in Pakistan

1. You get to live near you families and loved ones. Which is a big plus if you consider it. you get grand parents for your children and they actually like their aunts and uncles versus the so so relation ship children living abroad have with their families which is usually over phone only,

2. You get to a good easy life with fewer amount of money, now this is a controversial thing. let me explain this a little. here after a good 4-5 year of job you can afford to rent a good size apartment, get a brand new car and afford servants and maid to do the house chores. if you are a good professional you might be leaving a life which places you in upper middle class of the society that itself gives you a satisfaction. this how ever in my humble opinion does not apply for Pakistanis living abroad, i have yet to see some one after 5 years in a foreign country lead a luxurious or easy life. they are always trying to make ends meet and trying to save some money. one thing to realize here is living there you have to visit back after every 1-2 years which is a huge budget concern so you save for a year and then spend it while visiting and the cycle goes on.

3. You can live in a society that respects you, you are not singled out as an alien. And treated as an equal by every one. you are not singled out as some one of different color, or race.

4. Your children grow with strong roots in culture of the country they know the respect you give to your elders and learn to co-exist in an environment to live with different people under the same roof.

Now some of the Cons.

1. The future is very unstable and has been since our independence. Nobody knows the outlook after 5 year, there is utter confusion in the direction we are going as a nation.

2. The infrastructure and facilities are lacking you don’t get the basic amenities of life like electricity, water easily. in a lot of places you have to pay hefty amounts to actually get these (people pay a lot in Karachi for tankers to provide water)

3. The Job scene is also not rosy always, you get sudden shut down of companies, whole industries collapse and no support is given from government of people getting out of jobs due to such situation. Also the laws are not too strict to protect the employees in most cases where they are its extremely difficult to get protection under those

I know i must have missed out many. you are required to chip in with pros and cons.

But from my stand point there was this movie i watched(Indian probably), in which a simple villager who lands in UK and wins a big reward, says to some one who is asking him to stay there because he can live a lavish life with the money he has won. The sentences that i some times echo to my self when ever i get an offer to go abroad.

“What is the use of a great car which i can’t even give a ride to my friends and family and show off to them, what is the use of a big house if i can’t even get my parents to live under it. What is the use of a lot of money if i can’t even buy sweets for my nephews and nieces.”

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  • Good subject to ponder on Qazi. When I moved back to Pakistan in 1993, the reason was that my father had retired and my mother was ill and someone had to move back to be with them. I volunteered. There have been a number of challenges that I have had to face but I think that more than the challenges, there have been many opportunities. There has been respect. There has been a feeling of community. And much more than anything, I was fortunate enough to have had precious time with my mother all these years until she passed away 4 years ago. That, in itself, was worth much more than the loads of money that I could have continued to earn if I had stayed on in Hong Kong.

    Additionally, I think in some small way I feel I have been able to contribute to the industry of which I am a part. All those who come back from the US, UK, Australia, Canada or elsewhere bring with them professionalism and industry knowledge that help Pakistani companies. The work ethic that they have learnt can also be taught to young people here. This is invaluable.

    Amongst the cons of course is the frustration that many who return face. They are used to certain facilities that they have always taken for granted in their adopted countries – clean water, electricity, good transportation, good communication infrastructure, education for their children, sports and entertainment facilities for the youngsters as they grow up.
    What they don’t have is, as you pointed out, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins – a whole family.

  • I am most frustrated by the social injustice in Pakistan, the friction faced when getting things done and the helplessness one feels on the road. It helps to have a strong social network to stick with. And thats the best part of being there – your friends and family.

    I’ve also observed another trend: people who spend say 60% of time in PK and the rest abroad.

  • Babar, this 60% thing is information for me. which part of the life people would like to spend abroad

  • Good post.
    If I consider the pros in order of importance, I would list them in reverse order (4,3,2,1)

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic over the last few years, as I watched my class-fellows, colleagues and relatives move abroad and immigrate, and people from my father’s generation retire and move back to Pakistan.
    I think there are two categories of people who give up on Pakistan, the ones who have no intentions of coming back and want to change their ‘Pakistani’ status for good. They would rather do odd jobs, do their own laundry and dishes (nothing wrong with that except I wouldn’t want to be doing that as I grow old) and produce the next generation of ABCDs while they wither and die.
    Then there’s the kind that goes there to earn money to generate a retirement fund, with the eventual goal of coming back after 20 years to buy a big house and settle down comfortably in Pakistan (with the property prices almost matching US/Europe prices here, not a lot are able to achieve that dream these days). Such people come back in their 50s with their teenagers in tow and try to live the rest of their lives comfortably, with maybe a few trips to Pakistan to attend marriages and funerals in between.
    A small percentage with enough of a Pakistani culture embedded into them do realize that they don’t want their kids to grow up in the ‘enlightened’ environment, and move back with their daughters (mostly its daughters) sooner than planned.
    So, after giving it a lot of thought 10 years ago, I decided not to follow my peers and move abroad, and 10 years later, after experiencing life abroad firsthand (while visiting), I do not regret the decision at all.
    When my American friends hear that I have a driver, a maid to do dishes, another to clean the house, their first words are ‘Man! are you that rich?’.

    So the important trade offs are:

    Your kids will miss the good(?) foreign education if you stay in Pakistan, but they will learn the cultural values that are totally lost when living in the US/UK etc. They will not be waiting to come of age so that they can be ‘legal’, and your daughters won’t be coming home with their boyfriends (its stuff from the movies but I’ve seen that happen regularly).

    You won’t have a few million Rs. after you have done your 20 year gig abroad, but by then, you’ll be preparing your will and will be thinking ‘Was it worth it?’.

    The technology and research trade off is a point against Pakistan, one simply can not get the exposure and the environment here to play with state-of-the-art gadgets, technologies and research areas, but cleaner roads, larger cars, latest gadgets and bigger malls are a very small trade off.

    Time is the most precious thing we have in this world, and I would rather use it in the pursuit of happiness than the pursuit of ‘greener’ pastures.

    PS. Sorry if I’ve (probably) repeated the post from my own perspective.

  • Everything is relavant with respect to time, needs and circumstances. At one side somebody would have a 100 reasons to go abroad and on other, somebody else would have a 100 reasons to stay inland. I know people who had been desparate to go aborad and I know people who are content enough to stay in Pakistan. I belive that more that 90% of pakistanis go abroad to earn their bread and butter so I would take only that reason in account for major migration. Its said that “one cannot love with an empty stomach” and this is very true ‘majorly’.When somebody is hand to mouth then there is ha huge chance for absence of feelings such as patriotism, affection for parents, niece or what eva that falls in that category. Once somebody has well enough in his/her bank accounts then its that time when he/she thinks of doing service for parents, buying chocos for neice or doing hang out with friends. Again saying that this is a major practice but off course there are a few bits of exceptions. As a general comment, What my personal belife is that we should always put ourselves into others’ shoes and see the real picture and must not judge somebody or give a verdict by attacting some sentimental behaviours with issues which is a common practice here in pakistan.


  • First of all, very important discussion, glad somebody started this.

    @Qazi: For the pros my order will be 4,3,1,2. For the cons, #2 is of importance to me as rest of the points stand valid for many other countries too.

    I agree with what Sohaib has written. I have spent some time abroad and I know by experience that things are not as rosy as we perceive after watching their movies and stuff. Most of the glamour we capture from the movies is as fake as WMDs in Iraq. I know of people who went to US/UK and got trapped in destructive debt by taking consumer credit to maintain “a lifestyle”.

    Anyways, I am not against Pakistan. I am born and raised here and I am what I am due to this country. But the injustice, corruption and lack of civic sense turns me off. While earning opportunities are here so is the risk of loosing everything to thugs and robbers.

    About education, well it is possible to get international standard education provided you can pay for it. Also, institutions are coming up that are offering nice blend of islamic and other education so that kids after finishing studies will have a mix of deen and duniya.

    My plan is to spend next few years abroad. I am looking towards the Middle East as next stop.

  • A friend forwarded this link to me today, should be of interest to the readers of this thread:

  • Shoib, thanks for sharing the link.

    Kashif, Moving to middle east and gulf also has its advantages. UAE specially has become extremely expensive to live in another thing that us technology workes take a hit in these countries is though they pay insan amount of money the growth factor is missing you alway feel like living away from the happeining. but maybe when i am old that my kids are going to school these thing matter less. also i hae seen that there is scarce good advance education in these countries with children returning back or going west after high school

  • I don’t agree with advantage number 2. Even after 4-5 years, you would probably make something around 50k per month (if you went to a local university), which is not at all enough to afford a car or an apartment (without involving a bank). You don’t get to save much and it would take years to save enough to buy something major such as a car. So unless you already own a home (or live with parents) and have a car, you cannot live a luxurious life in Karachi unless you have a 6 figure income. If you have your own business then that’s a different story.

    On the other hand, while I was in the US, I have seen many people affording homes and cars just by saving from their salaries.

    In Pakistan (major cities), cost of living is pretty high and people don’t earn that much money, so the lavish things are affordable by higher class only.

  • @Qazi: I do not plan to get a job there, will try to extend my work/business/. I prefer to keep the family back home for a while as UAE is not very far and one can reach back in time less than what it takes between a KHI-ISB flight.

  • Omar, if you are earning 50k an Apartment in Karachi and a car leased from bank is well with in 20k if you are not talking about a lavish car or a big house. in US i don’t know any one buying a car on cash or affording as home either on cash after 5 years of job unless he is a Harward mba or some thing, their whole system revolves around credit and lease and loans. i have yet to find a Pakistani who has got a brand new car on cash in US and i know alot of them. so if you are talking about a second hand car you can very well buy it here by saving off the 50k.
    but you have missed the point i was trying to make after 5 years in job here you start lets say on 20k you have 2.5 times the salary growing at a 20~25% rate. in US it is 4-5% so after 5 years you have not grown much. here if you are earning about 50 k that allows you to buy a lot of things and places you on upper middle class both in facilities and status how ever the same amount of effort and time in US will not bear equal results.

  • Mir Mahmood Ali

    I have worked 7 years in UAE and then shifted back to Pakistan in an engineering company with a salary 100 k +….. I stayed on that package for one year and then moved back to UAE for another project…. I found life more enjoyable in Pakistan with my parents, relatives and friends and wish to go back as soon as I get a good oppurtunity

  • Pros:
    Family is here.

    Internet slow.
    Internet unreliable.
    Electricity unreliable.
    Electricity expensive.
    Indirect taxes.
    Direct taxes.
    Daily hassels.
    Cars are expensive.

  • It is good to read all of the above comments regarding pros and cons of living in Pakistan.

    Here I would like to share a statement by Qazi Hussain Ahmed from Jumat-e-Islami with you guys;

    Journalist: Is Pakistan your favorite country?
    Qazi Sahib: Yes it is, but I’m afraid if one day I lose my son in a bomb blast then it will become very hard for me to say this from the bottom of my heart that my favorite country is Pakistan :(

  • Well plz all of u guys must do 1 thing… Always give ur last final decision at the end of ur comments….

    “Yes, to stay in Pakistan”
    “Not, to stay in Pakistan”.

  • Hi everyone.
    By the end, when we’d look back and see how we went, the maids vs self would not matter. The more money vs less money would not matter as well. What would count would be your contribution to the society where you belong. Did you actually contribute something for Pakistan? That contribution can be anything and depends on your perspective. And sometimes, it seems that you have to get out of the system to put something in. Then it doesn’t matter where you lived and how. Like they say in punjabi “time lung janda ai, gullan re jaandian nay” (please excuse my vague punjabi).

  • @Adnan, that is very comprehensive statement there, I completely agree, in the end how much contribution you made to the countries growth is what matters where you are does not

  • never really saw this thread but would like to chip in here as a uk born british pakistani businessman who has spent tons of time in pakistan and is willing to go back to pakistan for business.

    the biggest pro i belive to live in pakistan is to do business,
    very cheap labour, markets are unsaturated, very little red tape and dealings with goverment, compared to the wests very competitive and saturated markets where its a mission to get a foot into, huge expenses and tons of red tape.

    so even tough there is no utilities in pak, the cheap expenses make up for it.

    secondly, employment, in the west people just dont care about jobs, as the clock hits 5 they pack their bags and run as fast as they can out the door, i have seen a huge difference in pakistan were people are 100 times more hardworking and willing to work longer hours and dnt take days off like westerers, and they can 100 times cheaper.
    talent is a major factor and i belive pak people are much talented then people in europe or usa.

    thirdly, life in the west is just to busy, you forget about your families and your whole life and dont get to spend much time with them.

    fourth, this one i love about pak, traffic is crazy in london, even though its getting very bad in karachi is well but still its nothing like in london and then you can drive your car in pak, in london or new york there is no point in having a car as you can only take the buses and trains with stinking people next to you, ohh and not mentioning standing in the rain at the bus stops.

    however for employment it has a long way to go.

  • In Pakistan I dont feel like an alien.Every one speak my language and have my culture.My aunts,uncles,grandparents,cousins,mothers(and fathers my parents are first cousins from both sides)cousins mothers and fathers uncles and aunts and grand parents cousins all meet and greet each other at least weekly and so do distant relatives.Life is cheap butenjoyable children dont have as much access to inapropriate matters and its YOUR soil!

  • i agree with your points suh..i want to move to pk for gud soon,aftr i finish my studies in the uk… i am a germany born,uk bred pakistani..ive lived in lahore and islamabad for 4 years and i think that life in pk is way better than life in europe/usa because you make real friends and enjoy evry bit of life…
    btw suh i want to ask u few questions about business..i am going to study business in cardiff university next year but i am not sure which business u mean is a goldmine in pk..!?business secretary/business manager/economist/accountant/financialist…??

  • im a female btw,that makes no difference i hope…!?

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